Why Iraqis are not welcoming US 'liberators'

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Editorial

Why Iraqis are not welcoming US 'liberators'


“I really do believe we will be greeted as liberators”, US vice-president Dick Cheney said on March 16, three days before US-led military forces began their invasion of Iraq.

The real attitude of Iraqi civilians toward the invading US troops was captured by US ABC News reporter John Donvan and his crew when they crossed the Kuwaiti border “unembedded” on March 25 and entered the small town of Safwan, which was occupied by US troops on March 22.

Townspeople surrounded the journalists and passionately voiced their opposition to the US-led invasion. “They saw the invasion as a takeover, not liberation”, Donvan reported.

Far from seeking to “liberate” Iraq's workers and peasants, Washington aims to impose a government headed by US military officers — serving and retired — to enable the billionaire families who own Exxon-Mobil and Chevron-Texaco to grab Iraq's vast oil reserves.

But since the “liberation” of the Iraqi people is a central element of US war propaganda, there must be at least a pretence of concern for the plight of Iraq's people. Consequently, the March 19 Moscow Times reported: “More than US$40 billion from Iraqi crude [oil] sales are sitting in an escrow account controlled by the United Nations, and the US and Britain want to use it to pay for humanitarian war aid.”

There are only so many excess funds in the account because Washington has repeatedly blocked the transfer of humanitarian aid to Iraq throughout the 1990s.

The professions of concern for the Iraqi people that the US rulers spout today did not inhibit them and their imperialist allies — in London, Canberra, Paris and Berlin — from policing a brutal economic embargo that has denied food, medicine and other essentials to Iraq's people for 12 years — an economic embargo that has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children.

The US-led conquerors want to portray their vicious blitzkrieg as “liberating” the Iraqi people from the brutal rule of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's Baath Party regime. Yet it was the US rulers, through the CIA-organised coup of February 8, 1963, that put the tiny Baath Party into power. More than 5000 leftists were murdered by the Baathists in the coup, on the basis of death lists supplied by the CIA.

“We regarded it as a great victory”, James Critchfield, then-head of the CIA in the Middle East, told Andrew and Patrick Cockburn, authors of Out of the Ashes: The Resurrection of Saddam Hussein (Verso, 2000).

Within a year of becoming head of the Baath Party regime in July 1979, Hussein launched a bloody eight-year war against the anti-imperialist regime in Iran, which had replaced the cravenly pro-US Shah. Up to 1 million people were killed in that bloody war.

The US and its allies supplied Hussein's regime with the weapons with which to wage this war, including components for chemical and biological weapons. Between 1985 and 1990, the US government approved 771 licenses for $1.5 billion worth of exports of biological agents, high-tech equipment and military items to Iraq.

Iraq was only able to manufacture the mustard gas that Hussein's regime used against Iranian troops and Iraqi Kurdish civilians in Halabja in 1988 because the thiodiglycol — an essential ingredient for its production — was supplied by Alcolac International, a US company since taken over by the US oil giant ConocoPhillips.

“The US spent virtually an entire decade making sure that Saddam Hussein had almost whatever he wanted... We continued to approve this equipment until just weeks before Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait”, declared Sam Gejdenson, then-head of the US House of Representatives foreign relations committee, in 1991.

When the Shiite Muslims of southern Iraq rose up against Hussein's regime at the end of the Gulf War in 1991, Washington ordered US troops to stand aside and allow the rebels to be massacred in their thousands by Hussein's forces.

That experience has undoubtedly made even the oppressed Iraqi Shiites — who constitute 56% of Iraq's population — rightly suspicious of Washington's claim that it is seeking to liberate them from the oppressive rule of the Sunni Muslim elite's Baathist regime.

While Washington wants to publicly present its conquest of Iraq as an act of “liberation”, it does not want Iraq's masses to take matters into their own hands and destroy the Baathist regime. That's because Washington's plan for a post-invasion Iraq involves utilising the bulk of the Baathist apparatus, under the direction of a US military regime, to rule the country.

In an interview with the British Observer in February, Kanan Makiya, an adviser to Iraq's main pro-US opposition group, the Iraqi National Congress, reported that under the US plan, the infrastructure of the Baathist regime would remain largely intact, with the top two officials in each Iraqi ministry replaced by US military officers.

Washington's goal is not to liberate the Iraqi people. Rather, as Makiya noted, “It is Baathism with an American face”.

From Green Left Weekly, April 9, 2003.
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